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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Darrin Frew » Music » Prince Far-I

Raising Awareness Part 1
Because not all old music is lame-0
Part 1 - Prince Far-I

When one thinks of the great sounds of Jamaica, most will think of the echo soaked bass of dub or Ska's skanking guitar. Some may even site the extraordinary and unique niyabinghi drummers. Such a pity then that The Voice of Thunder remains relatively unrecognised.

The Voice of Thunder belonged to Michael Williams, better known to the world as Prince Far-I, and as the moniker might suggest it was truly a force of nature. When Prince Far-I did his thing (you couldn't really call it singing, more, well, rumbling) people definitely sat up and took notice. No one ever sounded like they meant business more than Prince Far-I's ominous patois inflected baritone could. As well as sounding like he meant business Prince Far-I also looked like he meant business. A huge man with a giant beard and that sort of face you might expect to find on the roughest deck of a pirate ship, it was actually his imposing physical presence that, in a way, got him his first break on the Jamaican music scene.

While working as a bouncer and studio security guard for the legendary Coxsone Dodd, Williams was desperately handed the mike and ushered into the booth when DJ King Stitt failed to show up at a recording session. However, success was far from instant and he was soon working again as a security guard at Kingston
docks, DJing at the weekends on Sir Mike the Musical Dragon's sound system under the name King Cry Cry, reputedly due to his tendency to get so angry during his politically charged rants on mic as to burst into tears.

After a lull of several years his recording career got back on track again in 1973 when he worked on several hit singles with, amongst others, The Skatalites Tommy McCook, and he was able to generate enough cash to form his own label Tuff Cry.
The first release on Tuff Cry - the excellently heavy '354 Skank' - immediately caught the attention of London based music fans, including producer Adrian Sherwood, and Far-I finally began to cultivate a fan base both at home and abroad.

1978 saw Far-I at the peak of his critical acclaim with the release of the LP 'Under Heavy Manners', which included several huge selling singles in Jamaica, and the result was a subsequent five album contract with Virgin.

Sadly though, as with so many Jamaican musicians (including King Tubby, who had used Far-I on many of his dubs) Prince Far-I met his end as the victim of the senseless and endemic violence he had so often berated at the microphone. On 15th September 1983, armed men entered his home and shot him, his wife and a friend. No suspects or motive were ever discovered. Worse still, The Voice of Thunder was silenced forever.

But not forever. Keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for the next Hip-D Pod Cast to sample for yourself the great man's 'rockstone' voice.

Recommended: Prince Far-I 'Silver and Gold 1973 - 1979' Blood and Fire Records, 2005


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